Saturday, August 4, 2012

To be bullied

Bullying is watched so much more close now, people are aware of it because of the wonders of technology.  I never thought the things I went through was considered bullying, but it turns out that I am a bullying survivor.  Life has a way of putting things in perspective.   I went to preschool and things were good -  at four years old, we weren't thinking about styles, who our best friend was or what boy was the cutest.   Kindergarten went pretty much the same way, I had friends and I got to have a juice and cookie break.   First grade was when it occurred to me that maybe I wasn't quite the princess I had envisioned myself as being.   Natalie was.  She was beautiful with just a dash of freckles across her face and pretty blonde hair that swept to her shoulders.  Everybody liked Natalie and I found myself wanting to be her friend to.  I spent days gathering up the courage to say "hello", and I practiced it in front of the mirror over and over.  Only I thought her name was "Madeline" like the character in one of my favorite books.  It was an honest mistake that opened the door to a lifetime of silly little mistakes that were blown out of porportion.  Not only did Natalie laugh when I called her by the wrong name, she also got all her friends to laugh and make fun of me.  I was utterly humiliated.    I do believe it was at that point that I began to realize that some girls are princesses and some girls are mere servants.  I was of the latter.  A servent to the mightly dragon of jealousy.   I wanted to be beautiful and thin like Natalie and have all the kids want to be my friend.  I especially wanted Mike from town to like me so I spent my recess chasing him all over the playground so I could pin him down and kiss him.  In retrospect, I can see that was the wrong way to get his attention, but I really wanted him to like me.   
By the fourth grade, it was pretty much established that I was never going to be Natalie's friend.  It didn't matter at that point, I had a best friend, Becky J and we were like two peas in a pod.  We liked the same things, enjoyed the same subjects... if Becky J liked something I didn't, I tried it any way and vice versa. 
I moved away that summer and my new school was full of the same kind of girl Natalie was.  They were popular, pretty, thin and the boys really liked them.   I was the outsider - hair that was always unruly, rumpled hand-me-down clothing, a bit on the heavier side than my anoerexic peers.  I didn't fit in at all, but  I sure tried.   I wanted to be them...  I just didn't know how.    I have thousands of memories of bullying, taunting, and jeering... they probably never knew I went home feeling miserable and alone, in fact, they probably never once thought about any of those things once I had fled the scene in quiet desperation. 
Enter junior high -  the bullying continued, the jeering persisted and I learned quickly that I was but a shadow in the light of the beautiful girls.   Magazines were filled with girls who looked just like them and nothing like me.  I handled it okay those first years, but I was deteriorating.  I dreaded getting on that school bus, I detested gym class and the girls who insisted on reminding me that compared to them I was "fat"  ( I really wasn't,  just bigger than they were ),  I felt self-concious about everything and I was certain that every time I walked by a group of kids, they were surely saying something horrible about me.   Sometimes they would walk up to me in the hall just to say something hateful, and more times then I can count, they verbally attacked as a group. 
It steadily got worse through high school.  I dropped out of basketball because the girls on the team made me feel so clumsy and unwelcome,  I joined theater but always felt awkward and stupid on stage,  my home life was less than stellar and I thought many times of running away or simply just ending things because I was so miserable.   No one...  not even my family knew how close I was to the edge.  I had perfected the "I'm Okay" me on the home front.  I never told my parents how awful things were or why my grades kept slipping, they had more to worry about with my brother being very sick and their own marital difficulties.  My older brother never knew either.  How could I tell him that his own friends were two of the worst that would attack me and remind me daily how little I mattered?    Sometimes I wonder how I got through it, and then I remember those girls who were always there for me.  I didn't tell them what was going on, they witnessed a lot of it and they were sometimes victims themselves.   Lori and Pam and Bethany were the three who knew how unhappy I was because at one point, I cried nearly every day and they still didn't give up on me. Just being with them made it better though,  They were my friends through some of my darkest years...and they are still my friends to this day.
All it takes is one friend to make the difference on your life.  I was lucky to have three.  Bullying is a horrible attack on a person's feeling of self-worth.  People don't always think before they spout off a hateful comment, they don't see the effects.. the long lasting effects.    I read daily about the bullying that goes on in the schools and how people think the school can somehow be responsible for it.  Let me tell you, when you are being bullied, the last thing you want is more attention.  If you get one bully in trouble, there are five more in the background lying in wait to jump you and get even.  Kids keep it to themselves because they are scared.  The only thing you can do is teach your children to treat one another like they want to be treated...  press this issue with them, make your voice a reminder in their head each time they open their mouth to tease, taunt or terrorize someone who appears to be weaker than them.  Teach them to be a friend.

I am a bully survivor. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Grandparents are wonderful.   As a little girl I was convinced that my grandparents names were really “Grandpa” and “Grandma”, I even bragged about it to a few of my school bus companions one morning while traveling along Randall Road.  We were heading to my grade school, Hillcrest Elementary and I was only five and in kindergarten with Miss Embry as my teacher.    I blame my own parents for this misconception, for that is what they referred to them as whenever I was around
I loved my grandparents immensely.   Grandpa Robert and Grandma Adeline  were my father’s parents and they were very much a part of my life.  We went to their home every Sunday and on all the major holidays, and that’s where me and my brother were taken when Mom and Dad had “errands” to run that did not involve children. 
My Grandma was a large woman with German ancestry.  She could cook up a storm and there is nothing on earth as good as her apple pies.  My father used to brag about her skills and then he would shake his head and say with a bit of sadness, “… and then she went instant.”   Once the easy-to make meals came around, the home cooking from scratch waned considerably.      For some reason, I always remember her potatoes.  Now my Uncle C would laugh and regale to you a tale of me eating an entire bowl of mashed potatoes all by myself when I was only four and how my grandfather kept looking under the table to see if I was just throwing them out of sight.  I  don’t remember it, but I’m sure the tale is true as it has persisted throughout the years.    
I knew a few facts about my Grandmother that will always remain true….    She kept a bottle of whiskey on her nightstand to take care of the tickle in her throat.  It wasn’t a small pint, it was a gallon jug because it was more cost effective.

She had an obsession with hoarding cups you would bring home from 7-11 – we found a whole box of them she had packed away and put in storage when she moved.  – Dad said it was a residual effect of having lived through the Depression. 

There was a constant supply of butterscotch candies in her pocketbook, along with handi-wipes and a wad of crumpled Kleenex.   

Grandpa Robert  was a man of mystery to me, but one I loved dearly.  We knew the moment he pulled his truck in the drive and me and my brother would come running to get a peppermint flavored lifesaver.  He was most commonly dressed in a pair of pin striped bib overalls and a ball cap depicting the local feed store.   He was a man of few words and he always seemed to be the one supervising the work on the farm.   He drove a mint green ford pickup with a cattle rack and I would often hear him humming a tune of sorts.   I could never imagine him as a child and I learned early on that going for a walk with Grandpa Robert would always end up working in some fashion… like pulling weeds in a bean field.   

I know the relationship my father had with his father was not always one of mutual respect, but I truly believe my father loved him much deeper than he has ever let on.  I know this because even to this day, my father refers to things his own father told him and they are never said with malice, but rather as wisdom. 

These were the grandparents I knew and loved well.  I was a Senior in high school when Grandpa Robert gave up his fight to stay,  and I was a young mother when Grandma Adeline left to join him.   Often I have wished my son could have known them, almost as often as I wish he could have known his own Grandma Nancy.   

I barely knew my Grandpa Al or my Grandma Elsie.  What I do know is mostly what I’ve been told.  Eventually I will share those tales, but that’s for another day. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I live in a small country town, plopped down in the southwest corner of Missouri.  I haven't always lived here and in many ways that makes it easier to go about my life.  Here - the only history anyone has on me is that which I have created since my move here and that which I have chosen to share.  Its nice because I can look anyone in the eye and not wonder if they remember some embarassing thing I may have done when I was in that era of time between sixteen and thirty.  Those are the years where we seem to make our biggest decisions, our unwise choices and the mistakes we would rather forget all about.  We all have something in our past we would much rather never revisit or be reminded of.

The first few years of life here on earth, were spent in northern Illinois.  I lived there only nine years, but my memories of the place seem to burn stronger than memories I have of my later adventures.  Perhaps because it was spent in those vital years when everythng was and adventure and the bad times never seemed to linger long.  I have fond recollections of  fishing with my brother,  swinging on ropes, climbing trees and jumping in giant piles of autumn leaves.  My brother, two years older than me, was my companion and my best friend.  When school started for me, life changed drastically.  On the farm, no one cared that I was a wild tom-boy, my hair cropped short and dirt always finding a way to decorate my face.   That first day of school though, people noticed the moment I got on the bus and I can still remember well the feeling of panic and despair as the older kids pulled on my scarf and laughed and made fun of me when I began to cry.  Little did I realize this was the first of many incidents in which my peers would force me to see that I was different and therefore someone who needed to be reminded that I would never be like them. 

Most of my educational years were spent in the mountains of Colorado.  If this were an adventure story, that would sound really wild and bring forth images of log cabins and harsh untamed winters.  The reality of it was I lived in a mining-turned-tourist town that depended greatly on the flow of visitor traffic detouring off of  Interstate 70.  I lived in house that was covered with sea foam green aluminum siding.  It had a nice yard, a big garage and a neighbor who believed me and my brothers were horrible juvenile delinquents.  True, we did make a point of breaking the boards on her picket fence and pulling them back together to make them look whole, and we did have a habit of kicking our ball over that same fence, forcing us to trample on the grass she spent hundreds of hours and money on keeping it weed free and beautiful.  We were loud and rambunctious and surely it had to wear on the nerves of a spinster who had enjoyed a quiet life until my family moved next door.  We weren't bad kids, we were just a bunch of siblings moved off of a farm and thrust into town life. We lived there for nearly a decade, however the neighbor, never did warm up to us and I'm certain she breathed a huge sigh of relief once we moved away. 

For a very short time I lived in Arkansas.  I managed to get through one semester of school there and then decided to moved to Montana.  That lasted three weeks.   At nineteen I wasn't ready to be on my own, although in hindsight, I know I should have stayed and toughed it out.  Isn't hindsight a cruel thing?  If I had known the rough years ahead of me, the choice to give up on one dream to try another, may not have been made based on fear of being alone.  Seems too many of my choices were made that way.  A fear that has proven to be something that I'm not afraid of at all now.  The comfort I get from that knowledge is that I know fear of being alone will never dictate my decisions that are life changing!

In just a few short paragraphs I've laid out the most basic timeline of my life.  Between those lines is forty-two years of memories and stories to share, heartaches and happiness and a lot of choices.  I've made a plethora of friends along the way, a good many of them have phased out of my life, but a handful still remain, still sharing and creating the events that shape who I am.   As my life is about to make another change, I am turning to my passion of writing to adjust, to learn who I am now compared to who I was.